Some Wyoming legislators want to send California a message. You see, they really like gas- and diesel-powered vehicles, and California’s phasing those out between now and 2035. So, to get back at California, Wyoming is trying to pass a resolution suggesting that Wyoming should do the opposite and phase out electric car sales in the state by 2035.
It’s worth noting that they aren’t trying to actually implement a ban on EVs. Unlike an actual law, a resolution is basically just a letter a legislature can vote to publish. Sometimes, they do silly things like declare a state day or thank somebody for doing something nice for the state. Other times, they rail against things the ruling party doesn’t like. But, there’s no force of law behind resolutions.
Even so, this massive conservative virtue signal died in committee, so it couldn’t even become a sternly-worded letter. Womp womp.
But, why did they waste time on this at all? The bill’s sponsors said they wanted to make a statement against California and other states planning to ban ICE cars, and that they really support freedom of choice in cars. Despite what they’re saying, a number of people showed up to oppose the resolution in a committee meeting, including representatives from auto dealer groups. The common opposing argument to the resolution was that there should be freedom of choice in the industry.
One state senator from Laramie, Chris Rothfuss, made an excellent point about the proposed resolution. “I think over the past decade we’ve seen that adding more negativity to a challenging problem just doesn’t seem to lead to positive outcomes,” Rothfuss said. He also said that the idea of “fighting acrimony with acrimony” just doesn’t work, and that Wyoming officials should instead try to open productive dialogue with California legislators.
Sadly, though, one of the bill’s supporters in the state legislature took a very different view. Senator Ed Cooper said that he took an oath to defend against all enemies foreign and domestic, and that bans on gas-powered cars are an “attack on Wyoming.” He used other martial language to describe the situation, talking about “pot shots” and “open assault.” But, he figured that the resolution had done its job of getting attention even if it failed in committee. He already had at least two interviews booked with news outlets later that afternoon.
Where I Think They Screwed Up
There’s a tendency in United States politics these days to make everything a partisan political issue. There’s a right-wing position to take and a left-wing position to take, and anybody not toeing one line or the other will find themselves in “no man’s land,” with few friends.
While traditional wedge issues have at least made a small amount of sense when looking at who supported what (things like traditionalism vs liberalism were at play), we’re seeing things that shouldn’t be political at all get sucked into the culture war. You know it’s patently absurd when even certain drinks (soy lattes) are only for “libs,” and certain cars (diesel trucks) are only for conservatives. There’s no room for individual needs (there are liberal farmers who drive trucks) and individual tastes (many conservatives like to go to Starbucks).
Instead of seeing electric cars a “lib cars” and gas or diesel cars as “conservative cars,” the hearing should have made it clear that EVs aren’t an issue that’s so easily politicized. Even in Wyoming, there are supporters of EV sales who are both not against gas-powered cars and not “libs.”
In other words, the opposite of an EV isn’t a gas or diesel car. Gas cars are just gas cars, and will probably stay on sale in Wyoming for decades after a phase-out in more crowded California. Bashing EVs or banning EVs doesn’t elevate the position of gas cars, because they aren’t connected like that.
What They Should Have Done Instead
Instead of trying to signal support for gas-powered cars to counteract California, the Wyoming legislators really should have focused on consumer choice. With or without the force of law, banning car bans of any kind and letting the market decide would be the truly conservative position to take, and is probably where they would have gone if they weren’t too busy trying to “own the libs” and get media attention.
From the perspective of people who want all cars to be EVs, the long-term difference wouldn’t really be much. While a few traditionalists and a few people trying to make a weird political statement will refuse to switch to electric, most people are a lot more practical about their cars. Saving money on fuel and maintenance, and having fewer problems with older used cars makes a lot of sense, and people generally don’t want to financially shoot themselves in the foot just to play politics.
So, in the long run, we probably would see most vehicles in Wyoming becomes EVs anyway, but without the resentment and political opposition that an EV mandate would bring. I know that wouldn’t make EV haters happy, but last I checked conservatives don’t want government picking winners and losers, right?
This Probably Isn’t The Last We Hear Of Anti-EV Bills & Regulations in Wyoming
While this resolution was largely a media stunt, there are still a bunch of people in Wyoming sitting around thinking of ways the state government could actually hinder EV sales and affect EV buyers in other states. Worse, next time they might not just trial balloon this with a resolution to see if the various lobbies would tolerate it.
One such suggestion came from a resident of Wyoming who came to speak at the committee hearing where the resolution failed. “You should think of somebody going around Elk Mountain in February when it’s minus 20 or 30,” said Bill Winney, a former Navy submarine captain, referring to the challenge of losing range in cold weather.
His suggestion? Ban EVs from certain roads during winter because some people might go get themselves stuck. While it’s definitely true that EVs lose range during winter, it’s not as bad as most people think and nearly all EVs lower their range estimates in response to the increased power usage, and trip planning software factors in temperature.
“You need to think in terms of a family that may be moving from Florida to California in February, going around Elk Mountain, and they just don’t understand how to manage loads on their battery,” he said, which is pretty weird because Wyoming isn’t between Florida and any part of California.
Either way, we can expect such nonsensical proposals to start trickling out of red states, and they might not even have to clear a legislature. State departments of transportation can often set rules for roads without needing to pass new laws, and a variety of other state departments already have other statutory authorities that could be weaponized against EVs if they can come up with some kind of bogus justification.
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